LONDON: Britain laid out its opening demands for upcoming trade talks with the European Union on Thursday, including a blunt threat to walk away from the negotiating table if there is no progress within four months.
The two sides appear headed for a rocky first round of negotiations as they try to forge a new relationship following the UKs departure from the now 27-nation bloc.
Britain and the EU both say they want to reach a free trade agreement, but have starkly divergent views on how it should be overseen and what constitutes fair competition between their two economies.
The EU says Britain must agree to follow the bloc’s rules in areas ranging from state aid to environmental protections, and give European boats access to UK fishing waters, if the two sides are to strike a good deal.
But the UK is demanding the right to diverge from the blocs rules in order to strike new trade agreements around the world, and to give the British government a freer hand to intervene in the UK economy.
In pursuit of a deal we will not trade away our sovereignty, Michael Gove, the minister in charge of Brexit preparations, told lawmakers in the House of Commons.
We will not be seeking to dynamically align with EU rules on EU terms, governed by EU laws and EU institutions.
That conflict will be one of the big hurdles in talks, which are due to begin Monday in Brussels. Fishing is likely to be another flashpoint. EU nations especially France wants Britain to grant European boats long-term access to UK waters. Britain wants to negotiate fishing quotas annually.
Britain left the EU on January 31 but remains bound by the bloc’s rules until a post-Brexit transition period ends on Dec 31.
Published in Dawn, February 28th, 2020